While Christmas observes the birth of Jesus, Easter remembers the main Christian event: Christ's suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection to save humankind from sin and death. He was crucified at 9am and died at 3pm, and placed in the tomb in the early evening of Good Friday (Mt 27:46-50,57-60; Mk 15:25,33-39). Jesus had stated to His disciples several times “that He must be killed and after three

Thank you Jesus for dying in my place  

days rise again” (Mt 12:40; Mk 8:31). After His resurrection from the grave on Sunday, the first day of the week, and His appearance to the disciples, the early Church began to celebrate Sunday as the Lord’s Day in contrast to the Jewish Sabbath or Saturday (Mk 16:9).

Easter Sunday is observed on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox – this is why it varies between March 22 and April 25. Easter Day also marks the end of Lent, a 40-day season of fasting, prayer and repentance that some churches observe in preparation for observing Easter. Occasionally Easter coincides with the Passover celebration that is observed by Jews commencing on the 15th day of the Jewish month Nissan.

The Jewish Passover feast, commemorating the ‘passing over’ of the destroying angel and the subsequent exodus from Egypt to form their own nation, is but a picture of the atonement accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection as the ultimate sacrifice for sin and the relationship God desires to have with us as individuals through accepting Christ’s salvation. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7).

On the night of His arrest Jesus had been celebrating the Passover (Mt 26:18-20).  It is significant that the OT remembrance of liberation was surpassed and superseded by a much better sacrifice on the same day. The significance of this, the most sacred of Christian celebrations, has been secularized and commercialized by such trappings as hot cross buns, rabbits and Easter eggs – the latter two derived from pagan beliefs relating to fertility and rebirth.

See also: ascension, crucifixion, holidays, Lent, Passion week, Passover, resurrection.